Orphaned bear cub bound for Kansas

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2001

Topeka, Kan., residents will get a late Christmas present from Juneau soon - an orphaned black bear cub caught in Switzer Creek.

The cinnamon-colored, 60-pound cub is now at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage where staff members call him Kris - after Kris Kringle, said zoo director Tex Edwards. The cub will be sent to the Topeka Zoological Park in Kansas in the next couple of weeks, he said.

"It's not frequent that a zoo has an opening. I know Juneau has seen its fair share of animals that just didn't have a place and were put down," he said. "We're just real happy it worked out well for this animal. It's not always the case."

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Juneau Police Department cornered and trapped the yearling cub Dec. 20 in Switzer Creek, said area management biologist Neil Barten. During the first part of December, the bear made its way from Riverside Drive to TEMSCO Helicopters to Sunny Point to Switzer Creek.

With its mother nowhere to be found, the cub was eating garbage and dog food from people's yards, Barten said.

"It was pretty lost," he said. "Why it didn't have a mother, we don't know."

Fish and Game had planned to relocate the bear when news of the Topeka placement came through. Barten said the cub would have had a hard time making it through the winter in Juneau.

"It's very unlikely that it would wander off and go to a den, so we caught and removed it rather than let it eat garbage and become a nuisance," he said.

A week ago, Fish and Game shipped the bear cub to the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage to wait as paperwork was completed. The bear was placed at the Kansas zoo with the help of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, Edwards said.

"This is a very attractive bear. Probably because he's a cinnamon phase, he's more unique and attractive," he said.

Edwards said the cub is eating well in Anchorage and is being treated for tapeworm, which is relatively normal.

"He has an A-framed house like a large dog house," he said. "He has some balls he bats around and lots of straw around the house."

Once the cub makes it through a 30-day quarantine in Topeka, he will be part of an exhibit called Hills Black Bear Woods, zoo director Mike Coker said.

"It's a 20,000-square-foot exhibit with two female sisters that are 5 1/2 years old," he said. "It has a pond, trees and allows them to den."

In addition to the two bears, known to Topeka residents as Sneak and Peak, Kris will live with a red fox named Sly that also is a part of the exhibit, Coker said.

"We've been looking for a male, another bear since last summer," he said. "We're very pleased we can help out Alaska."

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.

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